Cosmetic Surgery Shapes Culture in Mexico’s Drug Cartel Capital: Empowerment or Exploitation?

Content Disclaimer: Sex trafficking, drugs and violence against women

Industry and society in Mexico’s drug capital, Sinaloa, depend on and feed off the culture of drug trafficking and the money generated by dangerous cartels. Beyond the violent environment it created, especially for the state’s young women, it marked the standards of beauty, fueling a craze for cosmetic surgery. An aesthetic called “la buchona”, which favors pronounced curves is currently in fashion, mainly with women playing the role of “lovers” trophy for a narco man who can, in exchange, offer them gifts and protection. Surgery is used by male drug traffickers as a method of exploiting, objectifying, and controlling vulnerable women, while championing the idea that women exist primarily to attract and please men. No doubt, both in Sinaloa and elsewhere, cosmetic procedures can boost self-confidence. However, can plastic surgery really be a long-term solution to insecurity when it fails to address the root of the problem and promotes unrealistic beauty standards?

The relationship between surgery and the Narco drug cartels in Sinaloa has woven a dangerous and inevitable network of exploitation for women. As Maria Teresa Guerra, lawyer and women’s advocate in Sinaloa, asserts, Narco culture has nurtured the idea that women are goods “owned” by men, useful only for their sexual value. In order to satisfy their thirst for temporary sex, drug traffickers use money, property and promises of security to coerce women into non-consensual surgery. The “Godfathers” of Narcos play the role of protectors, thus manipulating the women who live among the armed men on an essential game board of poverty, danger and vulnerability. The lack of loyalty shown by these men, and the dependence of expensive surgery on drug trafficking, leads to an increase in violence against women by their narco “lover” or her rivals in a domino-trapping effect. . Guerra depicts how women’s bodies are regularly found “tortured and burned”; she remembers the murder of a young woman who was shot in the breasts and hips – mutilated by her boyfriend’s enemies narcotics in the body parts he had invested in. The Mexican authorities remain complicit and non-confrontational.

The relationship between surgery and the Narco drug cartels in Sinaloa has woven a dangerous and inevitable network of exploitation for women

While surgery can seemingly pull the weeds out of self-doubt, it ultimately fails to get to the root of the problem. Although post-plastic surgery women may feel less secure about their figure, the deeper belief that physical beauty determines self-esteem cannot be crushed by a simple procedure. Surgery often results in women noticing more and more new “imperfections” to obsess over and reinforces unattainable standards of beauty that trap all women in an inescapable competitive cycle of existing to satisfy the male gaze. Beauty salon owner Janette Quintero boasts, “In my 20s, I was the woman with the most pronounced buttocks in all of Sinaloa! », Illustrating the unhealthy and competitive world of plastic surgery. As permanent cosmetic procedures take place against a backdrop of ever-changing fashion, with some women in Sinaloa now decreasing the size of their curves and rejecting the aesthetic of buchona, surgery is particularly dangerous for fueling insecurity. No matter how much a woman shapes her figure, she will never remain “desirable” in the long run. Both in Sinaloa and around the world, celebrities and the media are pushing women for surgery, littering photoshopped images, critical headlines and secret surgeries on every screen, front page and shop. Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of the former Sinaloa drug cartel boss, owns a famous buchona figure, imitated by countless women in Sinaloa, while Western celebrities such as the Kardashians promote a similar style, denying often their use of photoshop and surgery. This encourages women to scrutinize their own flaws, leading them to a dead end of unhealthy comparison and insecurity that often leads to cosmetic procedures.

Unattainable beauty standards […] trap all women in an inevitable competitive cycle of existing to satisfy the male gaze

Although in the long run, plastic surgery can cause insecurity and low self-esteem for both the person under the knife and for onlookers feeling trapped by unattainable beauty standards, it can build confidence. in itself in the short term. Surgery is a quick fix for physical insecurities. Both in Sinaloa and around the world, standards of beauty and pretty privileges aren’t disappearing anytime soon; in the meantime, plastic surgery helps women feel good about themselves, boosting their self-esteem and inspiring confidence that can be reflected and shone in all their endeavors. For some, surgery has improved independence and success. For example, Gabriela, 38, (not her real name), a business owner and single mom, says her self-funded procedures to create a curvy, buchona-style figure have increased her self-esteem. Far from trying to impress a narco man, Gabriela is looking for “someone intelligent, hardworking and loyal.” Likewise, beauty salon owner Janette Quintero feels empowered by her twenty surgeries, confessing “I love her. For a woman, having an operation is the most beautiful thing in the world – changing things about your body that you don’t like ”.

Beauty standards and pretty privileges aren’t going away anytime soon

Ultimately, the cosmetic surgery craze in Sinaloa works as an insidious tool for the control and exploitation of women at the hands of violent narco men and drug traffickers. It reinforces the idea that women exist only to satisfy the male gaze, and procedures often take place without informed consent. Both in Sinaloa and around the world, although plastic surgery can boost self-confidence in the short term, it essentially reaps unrealistic beauty standards, which encourage insecurities to flourish for many women. It doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Therefore, the use of surgery should not be normalized.

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